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Report: U.S. spending billions of dollars to subsidize junk food

September 22, 2011 |  3:30 am

Twinkies 
A new report released this week has found that, among the billions of dollars spent each year in federal subsidies for commodity crops, a steady flow of these taxpayer dollars are going to support high fructose corn syrup and three other common food additives used in junk food.

The report, “Apples to Twinkies: Comparing Federal Subsidies of Fresh Produce and Junk Food” by CALPIRG and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, studies the interesting question of whether the nation's problem with obesity is fueled by farm subsidies.

From 1995 to 2010, $16.9 billion in federal subsidies went to producers and others in the business of corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and soy oils, according to the report.

The findings come as the White House has been rallying to battle childhood obesity, and Congress is poised to potentially either quash or curtail direct farm subsidy payments in the future.

So how much is America spending? Enough for each U.S. taxpayer to buy 19 Twinkies a year, according to the report. In comparison, it said, federal subsidies for fresh produce would cover only a few bites of an apple per taxpayer a year.

One of the more interesting findings: Taxpayers in the San Francisco area spend $2,762,295 each year in junk food subsidies, but only $41,950 each year on apple subsidies.

“If these agricultural subsidies went directly to consumers to allow them to purchase food, each of America’s 144 million taxpayers would be given $7.36 to spend on junk food and 11 cents with which to buy apples each year –- enough to buy 19 Twinkies but less than a quarter of one Red Delicious apple apiece,” CALPIRG officials said in a statement.

You can read an executive summary of the report, and get a copy of the full report, here.

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-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Hostess Twinkies. Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

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